Category Archives: news

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New method to functionalise glass fibers

17 April 2019:

One of the biggest challenges associated with exposed core glass optical fiber-based sensing is the availability of techniques that can be used to generate reproducible, homogeneous and stable surface coating. CNBP scientists report a one step, solvent free method for surface functionalization of exposed core glass optical fiber that allows for the binding of fluorophore-of-choice for metal ion sensing.

Lead author of the paper, published in the journal ‘Sensors’, is CNBP researcher Dr Akash Bachhuka based at the University of Adelaide.

Journal: Sensors

Publication TitleSurface Functionalization of Exposed Core Glass Optical Fiber for Metal Ion Sensing;

Authors: Akash Bachhuka, Sabrina Heng, Krasimir Vasilev, Roman Kostecki, Andrew Abell and Heike Ebendorff-Heidepriem


One of the biggest challenges associated with exposed core glass optical fiber-based sensing is the availability of techniques that can be used to generate reproducible, homogeneous and stable surface coating. We report a one step, solvent free method for surface functionalization of exposed core glass optical fiber that allows achieving binding of fluorophore of choice for metal ion sensing. The plasma polymerization-based method yielded a homogeneous, reproducible and stable coating, enabling high sensitivity aluminium ion sensing. The sensing platform reported in this manuscript is versatile and can be used to bind different sensing molecules opening new avenues for optical fiber-based sensing.

Binding mechanisms of solid-binding peptides

5 April 2019:

A new review article by CNBP PhD student Rachit Bansal and CNBP Associate Investigators (Anwar Sunna, Andrew Care and Tiffany Walsh) reports on experimental tools to study the binding mechanism of synthetic peptides to solid materials. The review provides insights into the role of these peptides as molecular building blocks for nanobiotechnology.

Journal: New Biotechnology.

Publication title: Experimental and theoretical tools to elucidate the binding mechanisms of solid-binding peptides.

Authors: Rachit Bansal, Andrew Care, Megan S. Lord, Tiffany R. Walsh, Anwar Sunna.

Abstract: The interactions between biomolecules and solid surfaces play an important role in designing new materials and applications which mimic nature. Recently, solid-binding peptides (SBPs) have emerged as potential molecular building blocks in nanobiotechnology. SBPs exhibit high selectivity and binding affinity towards a wide range of inorganic and organic materials. Although these peptides have been widely used in various applications, there is a need to understand the interaction mechanism between the peptide and its material substrate, which is challenging both experimentally and theoretically. This review describes the main characterisation techniques currently available to study SBP-surface interactions and their contribution to gain a better insight for designing new peptides for tailored binding.

Non-invasive assessment of islet cells

2 April 2019:

Professor Ewa Goldys, CNBP Deputy Director, UNSW Sydney,  in partnership with Associate Professor Shane Grey from the Garvan Institute have received an international grant from JDRC  for “Noninvasive assessment of islet cells”.

This project will develop a non-invasive method for real-time monitoring of encapsulated beta cells in vitro and in vivo.  This will help assess the fate of implanted cells and define the conditions required to produce high quality insulin-producing cells for implantation and their precursors.

The results will lay the foundations for in vivo assessment of islet transplantation success.

Henan University visit

Prof Jim Piper2 April 2019:

CNBP Chief Investigators at Macquarie University, Prof Jim Piper and Prof Nicole Packer, as well as CNBP Associate Investigator Dr Bingyang Shi have met with delegates from Henan University led by Prof. Yang Zhonghua, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Henan University Vice President.

Henan University, founded in 1912, is located in Kaifeng, China and is known globally for its strength in the Biology discipline. Discussed at the meeting were CNBP research areas and projects, as well as the potential for collaboration. Prof. Piper and Prof. Packer were invited to visit Henan University for further talks later in the year.

L to R – Prof Nicole Packer, Prof. Yang Zhonghua, Prof Jim Piper and Dr Bingyang Shi.



Liquid-metal nanoparticles focus UV light

29 March 2019:

Liquid-metal nanoparticles can focus ultraviolet light at the nanoscale. Read more in a publication reporting on the UV plasmonic properties of colloidal gallium-indium particles (lead author CNBP Associate Investigator Dr Philipp Reineck, RMIT University).

Journal: Scientific Reports.

Publication title: UV plasmonic properties of colloidal liquid-metal eutectic gallium-indium alloy nanoparticles.

Authors: Philipp Reineck, Yiliang Lin, Brant C. Gibson, Michael D. Dickey, Andrew D. Greentree, Ivan S. Maksymov.

Abstract: Nanoparticles made of non-noble metals such as gallium have recently attracted significant attention due to promising applications in UV plasmonics. to date, experiments have mostly focused on solid and liquid pure gallium particles immobilized on solid substrates. However, for many applications, colloidal liquid-metal nanoparticle solutions are vital. Here, we experimentally demonstrate strong UV plasmonic resonances of eutectic gallium-indium (eGaIn) liquid-metal alloy nanoparticles suspended in ethanol. We rationalise experimental results through a theoretical model based on Mie theory. our results contribute to the understanding of UV plasmon resonances in colloidal liquid-metal eGaIn nanoparticle suspensions. they will also enable further research into emerging applications of UV plasmonics in biomedical imaging, sensing, stretchable electronics, photoacoustics, and electrochemistry.

Visualizing neuroinflammation

21 March 2019:

A new time-gated microscopy approach has been reported by CNBP researchers that will help neurobiologists better visualize neurokine signaling (and other) molecules in cells or tissue samples. Lead author of the publication is CNBP researcher Dr Lindsay Parker, Macquarie University.

Journal: Journal of Neuroinflammation.

Publication title:  Visualizing neuroinflammation with fluorescence and luminescent lanthanide-based in situ hybridization.

Authors: Lindsay M. Parker, Nima Sayyadi, Vasiliki Staikopoulos, Ashish Shrestha, Mark R. Hutchinson and Nicolle H. Packer.


Neurokine signaling via the release of neurally active cytokines arises from glial reactivity and is mechanistically implicated in central nervous system (CNS) pathologies such as chronic pain, trauma, neurodegenerative diseases, and complex psychiatric illnesses. Despite significant advancements in the methodologies used to conjugate, incorporate, and visualize fluorescent molecules, imaging of rare yet high potency events within the CNS is restricted by the low signal to noise ratio experienced within the CNS. The brain and spinal cord have high cellular autofluorescence, making the imaging of critical neurokine signaling and permissive transcriptional cellular events unreliable and difficult in many cases.

In this manuscript, we developed a method for background-free imaging of the transcriptional events that precede neurokine signaling using targeted mRNA transcripts labeled with luminescent lanthanide chelates and imaged via time-gated microscopy. To provide examples of the usefulness this method can offer to the field, the mRNA expression of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) was visualized with traditional fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) or luminescent lanthanide chelate-based in situ hybridization (LISH) in mouse BV2 microglia or J774 macrophage phenotype cells following lipopolysaccharide stimulation. TLR4 mRNA staining using LISH- and FISH-based methods was also visualized in fixed spinal cord tissues from BALB/c mice with a chronic constriction model of neuropathic pain or a surgical sham model in order to demonstrate the application of this new methodology in CNS tissue samples.

Significant increases in TLR4 mRNA expression and autofluorescence were visualized over time in mouse BV2 microglia or mouse J774 macrophage phenotype cells following lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation. When imaged in a background-free environment with LISH-based detection and time-gated microscopy, increased TLR4 mRNA was observed in BV2 microglia cells 4 h following LPS stimulation, which returned to near baseline levels by 24 h. Background-free imaging of mouse spinal cord tissues with LISH-based detection and time-gated microscopy demonstrated a high degree of regional TLR4 mRNA expression in BALB/c mice with a chronic constriction model of neuropathic pain compared to the surgical sham model.

Advantages offered by adopting this novel methodology for visualizing neurokine signaling with time-gated microscopy compared to traditional fluorescent microscopy are provided.

Automated detection of eye surface cancer

20 March 2019:

A new automated non-invasive technique for diagnosing eye surface cancer (ocular surface squamous neoplasia or OSSN) has been developed by CNBP researchers and collaborators. The technique has the potential to reduce the need for biopsies, prevent therapy delays and make treatment far more effective for patients.

Reported in a clinical journal ‘The Ocular Surface’, the innovative method comprises the custom-building of an advanced imaging microscope in association with state-of-the-art computing and artificial intelligence operation. The result is an automated system that is able to successfully identify between diseased and non-diseased eye tissue, in real-time, through a simple scanning process.

“Clinical symptoms of OSSN are known to be variable and in early stages can be extremely hard to detect so patients may experience delays in treatment or be inaccurately diagnosed,” says Mr Habibalahi, Researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) and lead scientist on the project.

“The early detection of OSSN is critical as it supports simple and more curative treatments such as topical therapies whereas advanced lesions may require eye surgery or even the removal of the eye, and also has the risk of mortality,” he says.

What Mr Habibalahi and the research team have developed is a technological approach that utilises the power of both microscopy and cutting-edge machine learning.

“Our hi-tech system scans the natural light given off by specific cells of the eye, after being stimulated by safe levels of artificial light. Diseased cells have their own specific ‘light-wave’ signature which our specially designed computational algorithm is then able to identify providing a quick and efficient diagnosis,” says Mr Habibalahi.

Read the full media release here.

Journal: The Ocular Surface.

Publication title: Novel automated non invasive detection of ocular surface squamous neoplasia using multispectral autofluorescence imaging.

Authors: Abbas Habibalahi, Chandra Bala, Alexandra Allende, Ayad G.Anwer, Ewa M.Goldys.


Diagnosing Ocular surface squamous neoplasia (OSSN) using newly designed multispectral imaging technique.

Eighteen patients with histopathological diagnosis of Ocular Surface Squamous Neoplasia (OSSN) were recruited. Their previously collected biopsy specimens of OSSN were reprocessed without staining to obtain auto fluorescence multispectral microscopy images. This technique involved a custom-built spectral imaging system with 38 spectral channels. Inter and intra-patient frameworks were deployed to automatically detect and delineate OSSN using machine learning methods. Different machine learning methods were evaluated, with K nearest neighbor and Support Vector Machine chosen as preferred classifiers for intra- and inter-patient frameworks, respectively. The performance of the technique was evaluated against a pathological assessment.

Quantitative analysis of the spectral images provided a strong multispectral signature of a relative difference between neoplastic and normal tissue both within each patient (at p < 0.0005) and between patients (at p < 0.001). Our fully automated diagnostic method based on machine learning produces maps of the relatively well circumscribed neoplastic-non neoplastic interface. Such maps can be rapidly generated in quasi-real time and used for intraoperative assessment. Generally, OSSN could be detected using multispectral analysis in all patients investigated here. The cancer margins detected by multispectral analysis were in close and reasonable agreement with the margins observed in the H&E sections in intra- and inter-patient classification, respectively.

This study shows the feasibility of using multispectral auto-florescence imaging to detect and find the boundary of human OSSN. Fully automated analysis of multispectral images based on machine learning methods provides a promising diagnostic tool for OSSN which can be translated to future clinical applications.

Osteoarthritis assessment to go hi-tech

13 March 2019:

CNBP scientists have reported an advanced new imaging technique that allows the condition of joint cartilage to be examined—right down to a molecular level. The technique has potential for diagnostics and treatment-planning of cartilage disease and impairment, including for osteoarthritis.

“Damage and degradation of cartilage around joints leads to severe pain and loss of mobility,” says Dr Saabah Mahbub, Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) and lead author of the published study.

“We need a tool to help us to determine objectively, the degree of problem that the joint cartilage is exhibiting. We then need a way to be able to monitor the effectiveness of any cartilage regeneration therapies that are able to be undertaken,” he says.

“Ideally we need to be able to do this monitoring at a molecular level and in a minimally invasive way.”

A cutting-edge technique termed hyperspectral imaging was used by Dr Mahbub to achieve this. This combined the power of an advanced optical microscope together with high powered data analysis, to measure and image the electromagnetic light-waves being given off by the cartilage tissue and cartilage cells known as chondrocytes.

“In this study, we applied our advanced hyperspectral microscopy to osteoarthritic human cartilage—to investigate its capacity to generate molecular data and to help us characterise the cartilage disease-state, as well as to examine potential treatment effects,” he says.

Read the full media release here.

Journal: Scientific Reports.

Publication title: Non-Invasive Monitoring of Functional state of Articular Cartilage tissue with Label-Free Unsupervised Hyperspectral Imaging.

Authors: Saabah B. Mahbub, Anna Guller, Jared M. Campbell, Ayad G. Anwer, Martin E. Gosnell, Graham Vesey & Ewa M. Goldys.

Abstract: Damage and degradation of articular cartilage leads to severe pain and loss of mobility. the development of new therapies for cartilage regeneration for monitoring their effect requires further study of cartilage, ideally at a molecular level and in a minimally invasive way. Hyperspectral microscopy is a novel technology which utilises endogenous fluorophores to non-invasively assess the molecular composition of cells and tissue. In this study, we applied hyperspectral microscopy to healthy bovine articular cartilage and osteoarthritic human articular cartilage to investigate its capacity to generate informative molecular data and characterise disease state and treatment effects. We successfully demonstrated label-free fluorescence identification of collagen type I and II – isolated in cartilage here for the first time and the co-enzymes free NADH and FAD which together give the optical redox ratio that is an important measure of metabolic activity. the intracellular composition of chondrocytes was also examined. Differences were observed in the molecular ratios within the superficial and transitional zones of the articular cartilage which appeared to be influenced by disease state and treatment. These findings show that hyperspectral microscopy could be useful for investigating the molecular underpinnings of articular cartilage degradation and repair. As it is non-invasive and non-destructive, samples can be repeatedly assessed over time, enabling true time-course experiments with in-depth molecular data. Additionally, there is potential for the hyperspectral approach to be adapted for patient examination to allow the investigation of cartilage state. this could be of advantage for assessment and diagnosis as well as treatment monitoring.

Research grant to tackle Parkinson’s Disease

22 February 2019:

CNBP Associate Investigators Dr Lyndsey Collins-Praino (University of Adelaide) and Dr Andrew Care (Macquarie University) together with CNBP Director Prof. Mark Hutchinson have been awarded a highly competitive Research Grant by the NeuroSurgical Research Foundation. The funds will help the team to work on pioneering a novel nanotechnology that will look to prevent the spread of Parkinson’s Disease throughout the human brain.

ECR Award goes to Dr Philipp Reineck

14 February 2019:

Congratulations to CNBP Associate Investigator Dr Philipp Reineck (RMIT VC Research Fellow), who has been awarded an RMIT University School of Science ‘Early Career Researcher Award’ for his outstanding research outputs and achievements in 2018.

Recognized was Philipp’s publication output. This included ten papers (with three  officially published in 2019). Also his four invited talks given at international conferences in the USA, Europe and Australia, together with his successful funding from the Australian Synchrotron to do 3D bioimaging experiments at the Spanish synchrotron.

A fantastic effort Philipp!

Below – Dr Philipp Reineck receiving his award.